“Why is it still so hard for you to believe, even when all the evidence suggests extraordinary phenomena?” – Fox Mulder
“Because sometimes looking for extreme possibilities makes you blind to the probable explanation right in front of you.” – Dana Scully
Our heroes venture to upstate New York to investigate the apparent suicide of a police detective. But does the sullen little girl who was in the room with him at the time hold the key to what really happened?
Max: “Born Again” is a wonderfully compelling late-season outing, with a lot going on in terms of both the main case and the working relationship between Mulder and Scully.
A little girl named Michelle is present at the death of a police officer, miles away from her home, and the weird circumstances surrounding it bring our heroes into the fold. She claims to have seen a man in the room with them, but the physical description turns out to be that of a police officer named Charlie Morris slain in an apparent hit nine years prior. Michelle turns up at the scene of another (former) officer’s death, and we begin to piece together that all of these officers, including Tony Fiore, the former partner of Det. Morris are connected to a big Chinatown drug bust.
Scully is hesitant to chalk these events up to Mulder’s pet theories of first a ghost and then the reincarnation of Morris into Michelle, and this disagreement forms the crux of the episode. As more evidence of the paranormal comes to light, including Michelle’s interest in origami (apparently inherited from Morris) and her deforming dolls in her therapist’s office to the exact wounds Morris suffered at the time of his death, we can see Scully’s carefully constructed framework of objective facts begin to break down. We even see her witness some spooky happenings of her own in the climax of this episode. Having surmised that Morris drowned in his own fishbowl and not in a signature hit, the agents go to the house of the former partner to stop Michelle/Morris from killing Tony, who has married Morris’ widow. Turns out, Fiore and the slain officers killed him when he refused to be a party to the others taking money from the drug bust for themselves. Almost done taking his revenge, the spirit of Morris is talked down by his widow to not kill Tony, and in a brilliant flash of blue light (in front of Scully!!!), he gives up the ghost.
The episode is a solid take on the trope of the unfinished business of ghosts and specters, grounded by a realistic case of dirty cops. Also, we see Scully’s first true autopsy in the series, after the rather impromptu one done on the exhumed corpse in the pilot and also in “Miracle Man” as well as the one on the dog in “Ice,” and it’s always a joy to see her scrub up and give us lessons in anatomy and forensic biology. All in all, a terrific MOTW to help bring the season to a close.
Radhika: I enjoy watching “Born Again,” but I have to admit that it feels more like a serviceable Monster of the Week episode and less like something that’s truly original and brilliant. I think this is partially due to one of the earlier episodes of the season, “Shadows,” which also visits the idea of someone reaching out from beyond the grave. And on some level, there is something vaguely reminiscent of “Eve” in this episode as well, thanks to the appearance of another potentially evil little girl.
That said, the girl who plays Michelle in this episode is pretty fantastic in the role, an important factor in making an installment like this worth watching. I’ve noticed that a majority of TV shows tend to cast a lot of stunted child actors (incarnations of Harrison on Dexter come to mind), but the casting department on The X-Files really seemed to take choosing child actors pretty seriously from the start. Therefore, the majority of the children-centric episodes manage to remain fairly compelling, even when the storylines are retreads of past episodes.
I don’t really have a ton more to add beyond Max’s observations, but in addition to seeing one of the more drawn-out autopsies performed by Scully in this episode, we’re also given a chance to hear a field report in Mulder’s voice toward the end. Much of this show has been framed in Scully’s voice — even though we have had a few Mulder-centric episodes — mostly due to her role as a spy of sorts for higher-ups in the Bureau. The two characters have already bonded fairly early on, so Scully isn’t quite the antagonist she was set up to be when the series began. But this little deviation does seem to suggest that the two characters really are on an equal playing field now.
YES, IT’S THOSE GUYS
Brian Markinson (Det. Tony Fiore) – Brian has been a constant presence in shows based and filmed in the Vancouver area for two decades, having had roles in Carter’s other show Millennium as well as Touching Evil, Dark Angel, Da Vinci’s Inquest, Caprica, and The Killing. He can currently be seen on the time travel procedural Continuum, where last season he shared the screen with other X-Files alums such as Nicholas Lea and Roger Cross, and he had a recurring role in the sixth season of Mad Men.
Maggie Wheeler (Det. Sharon Lazard) – This is all you really need to know: